Flows of material culture, such as things, furniture, clothes, cars, parts of buildings, food, and waste, are a central feature of contemporary society. Recently, the circulation of many such goods has emerged as an attractive and necessary alternative to linear modes of usage. Reuse, redesign and recycling are all approaches which connect the aging with new contexts, areas of use and values.
Re:heritage is a research project which focuses on the circulation of material culture on the second hand market from a heritage perspective. Today things are marketed as having a heritage value in a range of contexts, from flea markets, second hand- and retro shops to exclusive boutiques or internet-based barter. Research within heritage studies has primarily focused on public institutions, local organisations and social movements, arenas which are often associated with ‘legitimate’ and recognised forms of heritage. Instead, Re:heritage focuses on small-scale entrepreneurs and shops, as well as private individuals, in order to analyse a broader and alternative heritage field. The project asks questions such as: How are things that are moving on the market evaluated and valorised? What are the implications of circulation, and how does it affect relationships between people and things? In what ways are objects imagined as having a before and an after, and how can this affect ideas and practices of ownership?
Through a combination of qualitative methods, such as archival studies, text- and image analysis and ethnographic fieldwork (participant observation and interviews) in concrete places where second hand objects are traded, the project wishes to develop theoretical perspectives on the circulation of material culture with heritage values. Another aim of the project is to deepen our understanding of an expanding economy based on circulation, shared ownership and reuse, issues of great significance for sustainable social development.
Within the project, which is cross disciplinary, six researchers from the University of Gothenburg collaborate (School of Global Studies, Centre for Consumer Science and Department of Conservation), and three in the United Kingdom (Department of Cultural Geography, Durham University). The empirical field is in Gothenburg represented by a selection of central streets with second hand and vintage shops, in the United Kingdom by a museum study in northern England.